For me at least, I’ve found parenthood the biggest catalyst for personal growth. It’s taught me patience, and responsibility, what really matters to me – all things I was lacking before I became a mother. Even though I found things very difficult in the first year as I had post-natal depression, I came to love the role of mother and see it as a defining part of who I am.
However there is always a danger when we allow ourselves (or allow those around us) to define ourselves solely in relation to one other person. Especially when they are your child – they have this terribly inconvenient habit of growing-up and changing.
Right now my daughter in eight. She is beginning to establish her independence, and I can feel her slowly peeling away from me. There is a distance between us. It’s not large, and it’s not uncomfortable. It is new. This is happening naturally for my daughter, it is the age when she should be making these changes without much thought. However it’s not happening without thought from me.
I had already felt the first peeling several months ago. Then a few weeks ago I woke up without having had my normal morning hug. This generally means my daughter is ill. I got up to find her watching cartoons.
“You didn’t come through for your morning hug?”
“I didn’t need to.”
That sums it all up. It’s about need. Suddenly I realised that although I have spent years grumbling about how I never get a lie-in, I had come to need that morning hug as well. A song from My Fair Lady started playing in my head. Where Henry Higgins, a most cantankerous misogynist, starts to realise that although he had spent all his time complaining and degrading Liza Doolittle, he had really come to enjoy her in his life and missees her.
I have a choice, I can accept that my daughters slow walk to independence is natural, and that as a Mother it is my job to support it and encourage her. Or, like unhealthy parents do, I can try to stop any signs of independence, and keep my child as dependent on me as possible to satisfy my own need to feel both needed, strong, valuable and to distract myself from my own frailty and weakness.
It isn’t really something I need to think about. As ever, it is my daughter who is teaching me.